UNIVERSITY PARK — The Penn State wrestling team went into Thursday night’s Rec Hall debut against Army with three of their four returning NCAA champions in the lineup.
While the sold-out crowd would have loved to have seen 141-pound NCAA champ Nick Lee in the lineup, it was thrilled to see Roman Bravo-Young (133), Carter Starocci (174) and Aaron Brooks (184) outscore their opponents by a combined 70-25 score.
All three scored 20 or more points in earning two technical falls and a major decision in leading the Nittany Lions (3-0) to a 32-7 win.
“They’re looking good,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said of his champs. “It doesn’t matter where you’re at. If it’s your first year in the lineup, second, third or defending national champion, the goal is obviously to never be satisfied, always trying to improve, score more points.
“If you’re going to wrestle, you may as well be yourself and go score points and do what you do. That’s what they’re doing, and it’s good to see.”
Lee was at the match. In fact, he received the Hammer Award at halftime. Amateur Wrestling News presents the award to the wrestler who wins and NCAA title at what the AWN writers say is the most competitive weight class of the season.
Lee tweaked his knee against Oregon State at Spooky Nook, but he went 2-0 on the day.
“I wouldn’t tell you that if it wasn’t something he’ll be back soon,” Sanderson said. “You saw him running around, bouncing around, so he should be back soon.”
Penns Valley graduate Baylor Shunk made his Rec Hall debut a successful one by defeating Ryan Chauvin, 8-4, at 125. Central Michigan transfer and returning All-American Drew Hildebrandt is waiting in the wings at 125.
Bravo-Young thrilled the crowd at the end of the second period against Dominic Carrone, coming out of a furious flurry with an acrobatic takedown for a 20-8 lead. And then he leap-frogged over Carrone for his final takedown – his 13th – to earn a 26-11 technical fall in 6:36.
Brandon Meredith, who is a 125-pounder, filled in for Lee at 141. Meredith tied Corey Shie, 2-2, with a takedown in the third period, but Shie escaped and got a takedown before the final buzzer to win, 5-2.
Beau Bartlett nailed a takedown with 25.9 seconds left in overtime to beat P.J. Ogunsanya, 3-1, at 149.
Army’s Markus Hartman recorded a 9-0 major decision over Terrell Baraclough at 157. The Nittany Lions took an 11-7 lead into halftime.
At 174, Creighton Edsell patiently scored a takedown with 19 seconds left to beat Christian Hunt, 4-3.
Starocci rolled to a 23-5 technical fall over Clayton Fielden in 6:57 at 174. Starocci nailed seven takedowns.
Brooks earned a 21-7 major decision over Brad Laughlin thanks to scoring eight takedowns to give the Lions a 23-7 lead.
At 197, Max Dean, an NCAA runner-up at 184 for Cornell two years ago, amassed 12 nearfall points in a 17-1 technical fall over J.T. Brown. Dean didn’t wrestle last season because Cornell opted not to wrestle because of COVID-19.
“It was a lot of fun,” Dean said. “I’m out there to have a good time. We all love it. Having fans and energy just adds to that. Penn State has been super welcoming to me – not just the guys in the program but everybody around town. They really love wrestling here.”
Greg Kerkvliet finished it off for Penn State by pounding Brandon Phillips, 14-3, at 285.
“I think we wrestled fine,” Sanderson said. “I don’t think we wrestled out of our minds or anything, but Army has some of the toughest people on the planet at that institution and on the wrestling team. So, I think they did a nice job and wrestled hard. I think we’ve got to keep getting better as we press forward through the season.”
The Lions, are back in action on Dec. 5 at home against Lehigh, were just happy to be wrestling in front of a crowd. Much of the COVID-shortened season was spent wrestling in front of only family members.
“This is awesome,” Bartlett. “It was the highlight of the last few months.”
Penn State 32, Army 7
125—Shunk, PS, dec. Chauvin, 8-4; 133—Bravo-Young, tech. fall Carrone, 26-11, 6:36; 141—Shie, A, dec. Meredith, 5-2; 149—Bartlett, PS, dec. Ogunsanya, 3-1 OT; 157—Hartman, A, maj. dec. Baraclough, 9-0.
165—Edsell, PS, dec. Hunt, 4-3; 174—Starocci, PS, tech. fall Fielden, 23-5, 6:57; 184—Brooks, PS, maj. dec. Laughlin, 21-7; 197—Dean, PS, tech. fall Brown, 17-1, 6:49; 285—Kerkvliet, PS, maj. dec. Phillips, 14-3.
Records: Army (0-1), Penn State (3-0).